Some time back, I was fooling around trying to find new ways to procrastinate from writing with real deadlines. I determined that what I really wanted to be doing was writing flash fiction - and that I should take my inspiration from Emotions - those happy little smiling faces. It grew out of control. To date I've written more than fifty of them, all available for free on my website. Some - I think - are pretty clever, and a couple are downright good. What I discovered though, is that there are THOUSANDS of Emoticons...it may be a very long time befor this project is completed...
#40 - Embarassed
Benny saw the girl turn toward him, and averted his eyes. He’d been staring at her so long his mind had drifted. Had she seen him? Had she caught him staring? God, he hoped he hadn’t been drooling. It was a slow morning. The elevators hummed and dinged as they shot up, and back down the center of the building, carrying suits and secretaries, lawyers and accountants in and out of the heart of business. Benny liked to call it “The Heart of Darkness,” after a favorite novel from his boyhood, but the few times he’d tried to share this particular witticism, it had been met by frowns and stares. They didn’t understand - how could they? They were all part of it - threads of evil and ambition weaving in and around one another, spiked heels trying to find purchase on the heads and backs of others, wielders of hidden back-biting blades of doom, vying for corner offices with a view of the world they neither interacted with nor cared about.
She was looking right at him, and he began to sweat. His job was security, and it depended on not being noticed at all. Being noticed eying the women (had he been leering?) would be much worse. Career threatening, even. Then she smiled, and he thought he might survive - though his face was no doubt an odd shade of red, and his voice, normally deep enough, was poised to squeak inanities, or fail him altogether. He knew the signs.
To start with, she was gorgeous. She wore a dark skirt to mid thigh, heels that here high, but not so high as to suggest other occupations, enough makeup to be attractive, but not enough to make you wonder what she was hiding. Her hair was long and dark, and the teeth her smile revealed were even and bright white.
Watch her eyes, he told himself. Meet her gaze. He glanced at her breasts reflexively, reddening again, but not before he read the name on the badge perched on her lower left collar. Angela. He forced his eyes up just in time.
“Excuse me,” she said.
Benny stared helplessly. He wanted to speak. He ran through a synapse breach of possible greetings so long and intricate his brain froze, but his tongue remained thick and inanimate.
Angela - he already thought of her on a first name basis, already imagined the two of them chatting, and leaving the building arm in arm. She waited politely as he ordered his thoughts.
“I…I’m sorry,” he stuttered at last. “I’m afraid I was daydreaming.”
“I’m Angela,” she said, holding out her hand.
“I know,” he answered, taking her hand, then reddening again as she glanced down at her name tag and grinned. Christ, was he really this lame?
“Do you know where Cheetham and Barnes’ office is located?” she asked. “I have to drop off some paperwork - they handled my divorce…”
She broke off, and Benny — in typical heroic Benny fashion — could think of nothing comforting to say.
“Fourth floor,” he blurted. “They’re on the fourth floor. Turn left when you leave the elevator, and they’re down at the end.”
She nodded, suddenly distracted. It was Benny’s turn to wait. Then she brightened again. She held out her purse, and without thinking, Benny took it.
“I am such a ditz,” she said. “I left something out in my car. Would you mind holding that for me? I’m going to have to run if I want to make my appointment.”
She was already squatted down, removing her heels. Benny watched mesmerized as she bent, and the skirt slid up her thigh. He held her purse in front of him to avoid any further embarrassment. He knew he should say no. Security was supposed to be inconspicuous, and a man standing in the lobby with a red purse was about as conspicuous as it got, but she smiled at him again, and was off, running through the lobby, leaving him red-faced, alone, and wondering just what the hell had happened.
He watched her until she was out of sight. Then, he turned back to the room, scanning quickly to see what he might have missed. An old woman stared at him, then down at the purse, and frowned. A group of men across the room pointed at him - he thought he could hear them snicker. He wanted to melt into the wall — but he also wanted to be standing right there when the girl - Angela - returned. He imagined asking her out. She was divorced — available. He was single.
Something clicked in the purse, and he glanced down. There was a vibration, and he thought maybe she’d left her cell phone inside, on vibrate, but that felt wrong. It was more like a rattle - or a bell being held still and muffled.
He was thinking of opening the clasp and glancing inside to check it out when the purse exploded. It was large purse, and it held a significant charge. The blast blew him into the elevator behind him and sent a flash of flames up the shaft. The wiring caught, and the fire spread.
The news carried the story that evening. The headline read…
EXPLOSION DOWNS CORPORATE TOWER - SECURITY BREACH LABELED “An Embarrassment”